‘Devious charade’ as cover-up



Yesterday’s banner headline article in the Manila Bulletin, about President Marcos instructing the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) not to be provoked by China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), contained something not to be taken lightly.

It’s something quite alarming which all Filipinos, and not only our security forces, should be constantly aware of and, therefore, should guard against to prevent it from happening amid claims and stories about WPS which, according to National Security Adviser Secretary Eduardo Año, are fabricated by the Chinese Embassy.

Among the fabrications Sec. Año pointed out is the recent claim that the Department of National Defense DND) and the National Security Council have approved a “new model” on the Philippines’ approach on resupply missions for Filipino soldiers stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal.

“The timing of this story is clearly meant to distract from the bigger story of the piling of dead coral rubble in Pagasa Cays 1,2,3 which is meant to create a high tide man-made geologic feature between Pagasa Island and Subi reef in an attempt to reverse the findings of the 2016 Arbitral Award,” Sec. Año stressed.

“This is the bigger story that they (at the Chinese Embassy) want to dislodge from the headlines and deflect attention from. It has truly reached a new low of pathetic desperation,” Sec. Año explained.

In a media forum last Saturday, Dr. Jonathan Anticamara of the UP Institute of Biology said in a presentation that marine scientists who examined the ruble at the Pagasa Cays saw “many characteristics that are atypical of naturally formed coral or sandy barrier islands, indicating that these are possibly products of island-building activities.”

“The most important thing that we know is that it doesn’t look natural,” Anticamara said. “There is a history of island-building and ongoing island-building in the area, so Filipinos must be very vigilant. We should pay attention and really make sure that we monitor these areas. That’s my main recommendation.”

In the same forum, PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said UP’s scientific research, which confirmed the degradation in the cays, was not a walk in the park because the marine scientists were harassed by the China Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militia.

“If there is one country that we need to hold accountable for the damage to our coral reefs in these cays, that will only be the People’s Republic of China,” Tarriela said, adding that “only China has access to these cays, which are located near their reclaimed military base on Subi Reef.”

The Chinese Embassy earlier said the “new model” for managing the situation at Ayungin Shoal resulted in a smooth resupply mission last February. But Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, according to the Manila Bulletin article, branded the supposed “new model” as a lie and a “devious machination of China through their embassy in Manila.”

“This charade must stop,” Sec. Teodoro said in a statement he issued on Sunday “to generate awareness of this clear attempt by China to advance another falsehood in order to divide our people and distract us from their unlawful presence and actions in our EEZ (exclusive economic zone).”

Explaining that his office never approved the “new model” as the Chinese claimed, he said there has been no contact between officials of the DND and Chinese Embassy ever since the courtesy call last year of Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian. He said no discussion of the “new model” transpired during the visit.

“We advise our citizens, the media, and the international community to beware of China's methods of manipulation, interference, and malign influence in furthering its own interests,” Sec. Teodoro said.

With the Philippines’ top security officials sounding off the alarm over China’s apparent chicanery, Filipinos ought to be more vigilant.

Sec. Año’s warning, as told in the Manila Bulletin article, that “China is planning to build a structure near the Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea in a desperate bid to reverse the ruling of the United Nations Tribunal which rejected its claim to almost all parts of the South China Sea” should not be taken lightly.

His warning and exposé of a dubious means to deflect attention from an insidious intent are not without basis. There could be a repeat of what happened in 1995 when China started with structures on stilts at the Mischief (Panganiban) Reef within our EEZ, in the guise of building a shelter for fishermen, only to turn it years later into a massive artificial island with a military base.

With all the charade and devious machination described by Sec. Teodoro, we Filipinos really ought to be wary and not let our guard down. ([email protected])